Israel’s Right to Self Defense

Israeli Defensive Measures in Gaza Strip: Lawful, Moral and Necessary

Press Release, American Jewish Congress

December 29, 2008 — The American Jewish Congress today stated its support for Israel’s defensive measures in the Gaza Strip.  The attacks against Hamas leadership, facilities, rocket launching sites, and weapons-smuggling tunnels have been precise and effective.  No sovereign nation is required by either international law or morality to put up with attacks on its civilians as Israel has done.  Any nation would act to put a stop to such attacks.  Neither is a sovereign nation required to avoid the use of force by simply acceding to the demands of those who are less scrupulous.

In a June 8, 2008 statement, we cautiously backed the cease fire Israel had reached with Hamas, albeit “with tremendous concern and trepidation.”

We wondered whether Hamas would “live up to the terms of the deal, and control not only its own activists but those affiliated with other factions.  A cease-fire in which Islamic Jihad or others continue regular rocket fire is no cease-fire.”

We now know that Hamas not only failed to control terrorist attacks by other factions, but countenanced them as well.

We were “wary that Hamas may use this opportunity not to reach out a hand in friendship but in fact to regroup, restock, rearm and prepare for further aggression.”

We now know that Hamas did precisely that, multiplying the smuggling of weapons and fighters through tunnels under the Gaza-Egyptian border.

Hamas’s studied and cynical disregard for the spirit and letter of the cease fire and the launching of hundreds of rockets at Israeli targets since the cease fire’s formal six month term expired, underscored the urgent need for Israel to carry out this offensive.  Israel’s critics have pointed to no alternative course but submission to continued bombardment and acceptance of Hamas’ terms.  There are those who argue further that Hamas might be better wooed into the peace process, rather than attacked and marginalized.  But if Israelis come to believe that the consequence of withdrawal is unending terrorist attacks to which the international community will not permit Israel to effectively respond, hopes for any peace process will end.

We object to the media rush to focus on Palestinian targets, not because we are uncaring about Palestinian civilians but because Israeli civilians have been at the receiving-end of rocket attacks for the past years without meriting the same frenzy of media attention. Where was the media outcry at the destruction caused by Hamas’ relentless missile barrage at southern towns in Israel? Where was world attention when innocent children and civilians were being attacked as they went to school, or to play or work? Why is there such outrage now when there was none then?

The charges hurled against Israel are spurious.  The widespread allegation that Israel’s actions have been “disproportionate” misapplies a term from international law to imply that Israel must not shoot back more times, or kill more people than the Palestinians do.  There is in fact no such requirement in international law.  International law does not require that military action be conducted so as to lead only to a stalemate.  Wars are fought to be won.  The doctrine of proportionality addresses the issue of what is a viable military target and requires that civilian casualties be proportionate to the military value of a target.

We mourn the Palestinian civilians who were killed or injured because they were in harm’s way because Hamas imbedded themselves in their communities and were being used as human shields against attack.  While any civilian casualties are regrettable, the culpability and responsibility for their deaths is attributable to Hamas.  This is because Hamas intentionally hides its military institutions and facilities in civilian neighborhoods.  In this respect, Hamas is aping Hezbollah and other terrorist groups which use human shields to score political and propagandistic victories over their opponents in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

AJCongress has been on calling attention to the terrorists’ use of human shields and to the distortion of international law that aid and abet their strategy.  We are working to bring a Congressional spotlight on human shields and the Law of War, and to work at the highest levels with NATO to bring these terrorist activities to the forefront.

Richard S. Gordon, President, AJCongress

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